The end of April 2023 finally saw the UK Government’s White Paper on gambling reform published. The document has received a mixed reaction with some feeling that the proposals could have been “a lot stronger.”
Those are the words of Anna Hemmings who is the chief executive of GamCare. One of the areas that the chief executive is concerned about is the marketing and gambling of online casinos and other betting sites.
The last Gambling Act came into force 18 years ago. The industry in the UK has seen many changes since then. The 2005 Gambling Act didn’t of course have any mention of the ability to bet online and on mobile devices.
That’s why this White Paper has such a heavy focus on how we bet online. It’s even titled: “High Stakes: gambling reform for the digital age.”
Since the White Paper was published, Hemmings has addressed a House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport hearing and expressed her concerns.
The main worry is over how online casinos can advertise their products on social media and YouTube. This is a concern as they are “places where young people, in particular, are potentially exposed” to advertising from gambling companies. The same applies to advertising seen on television.
Anna Hemmings believes that “there are opportunities to go further and strengthen the proposals” currently in the White Paper. GamCare would prefer to see future legislation focusing more on ensuring that gambling materials aren’t seen by those who are under the age to legally gamble.
The White Paper does contain proposals that are aimed at those online casino players who are aged under 25. They include plans to limit the maximum stake that can be made on slot games and other online casino games. It’s a measure that has been welcomed by the chief commissioning officer of GambleAware, Anna Hargrave.
GambleAware are “very supportive” of the limits that will be placed. They want to see more details of the plans before giving their final view on them.
The White Paper has also proposed that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) carry out a review into the incentives that are offered by some of the best in the UK online casinos and other gambling sites. In a highly competitive industry, sites offer bonuses such as free bets as incentives to persuade new players to register accounts with them.
The aim of the White Paper is to ensure that such offers are “constructed and targeted in a socially responsible manner.” Some offers aren’t as good as they sound with high wagering requirements or odds restrictions in place. These can make it difficult for new site members to withdraw anything from their bonus funds.
There are also concerns over the VIP schemes that are seen at online gambling sites. These see rewards given in relation to how much players gamble with the website.
The much delayed White Paper had a difficult task. There are many campaigners who wish to see strong action taken against online casinos and other gambling sites.
However, the UK gambling industry is one that provides the government with a lot of tax revenue. It also employs a large number of workers so too strict measures could see profits (and tax revenue) falling and jobs lost.
The proposal to introduce a statutory levy on gambling companies has been welcomed but there have already been voluntary payments made. Limiting maximum stakes will also hit profits as was seen when similar measures were introduced in land-based bookmakers. That policy saw some bookmaker shops closed and jobs lost.
Another fear is that players are gambling amounts that they cannot afford to lose. The White Paper states that there will be checks made on players who lose either £125 in a 24-hour period or £500 a year. Those checks are described as being “unobtrusive.”
“Frictionless” affordability checks will be made for those gamblers losing £1,000 in a day or £2,000 over a three-month period. The limits will be lower for those aged under 25.
Such moves are welcomed by many but cause concern in the gambling industry. The fear is that players who don’t have gambling problems will feel they are being targeted unfairly. This could lead to them joining unregulated casinos where the level of customer prediction is far lower. That could cause more problems in the future.
There’s going to be plenty more discussion on the proposals in the coming months. The UK Government White Paper was never going to please everyone but many do feel that some areas simply aren’t tough enough.